On February 14, 1944, Gestapo agents entered the village of Tronche, France. They arrested two Jewish refugees from Austria, Fritz and Annie Finaly. The Finalys were never seen again. Their children (Robert, aged three and Gerald, aged two) were left behind.
A Catholic woman named Antoinette Brun took the two young boys into the Grenoble founding home, which she ran. Eventually she came to love them, and in 1945 she began the process to formally adopt the boys. In 1948, she had them baptized into the Catholic Church.
The boys parents were gone, but an aunt from New Zealand wrote a letter asking that they be sent to her. Brun resisted that overture, but in 1949 the Finaly family filed suit asking that the boys be sent to live with a different aunt in Israel.
The lawsuit went on for almost four years, and the evidence was conflicting. The boys' late father had told friends that he wanted to have his sons brought up in France, but there was no clear evidence as to his (or their mother's) religious wishes. For their part, the boys wanted to stay in France with Brun.
The French court ultimately sided with the Finaly relatives, but when the authorities went to pick up the boys, they were missing. Friends and supporters of Ms. Brun, including several Catholic priests and nuns, had spirited the boys off to Spain.
Several arrests were made, and according to Time magazine (March 16, 1953), French socialists used this as an opportunity to bash the Catholic Church. These Catholics, however, were not acting on behalf of the Church. Time also reported that Bishop Alexandre Calliot of Grenoble made a radio broadcast in which he demanded that anyone with information about the boys get in touch with the authorities. One of the first to comply was a priest in Spain who reported on the boys' whereabouts.
Forty-eight hours after the final appeal was decided in favor of the Finaly family, a representative of Pierre Cardinal Gerlier, Archbishop of Lyon, made the final of several trips into Spain to find the boys. They were waiting in the home of a Spanish provincial governor, and the Church official helped bring them back to France.
Rather than having supported the "kidnapping" of the Finaly boys, as the November 7, 1955 issue of Time explained: "the Roman Catholic hierarchy had helped in getting the Finaly brothers back" to their Jewish relatives. Again, the critics got it wrong.